Mar 30

March 30.10: Not feeling it.

The phone rang last night around 9:15, and it was a friend who wanted to share some good news. As is the case when we talk the conversation quickly turned to the Mets.

“You know JD,” he said. “Normally, I’d be excited this time of year. Opening Day is a week away, but for some reason I’m not feeling it this year. It’s hard to get excited about this team.”

The greatest concern on his mind was the pitching, which has not been good. All the worries about the Key Three – Pelfrey, Maine and Perez – are still there, hanging over the team like the rain this morning.

They just won’t go away.

“For the last three years they’ve been saying how they need a No. 2 starter,” my friend said. “So, what do they do? They spend it all on a left fielder.”

We can debate whether what was out there is better than what the Mets currently have, but for now, we have to consider there had to have been at least one guy who could help.

I don’t know. Maybe the buzz will hit my friend and he’ll feel it next week. Maybe they’ll get off to a fast start and get us all excited.

But for now, there are more than several issues that have dampened the mood.

Mar 29

March 29.10: Pelfrey should open season in the minors.

Let’s face it, Mike Pelfrey has had a miserable spring, one which doesn’t warrant going north with the team. He’s given up eight homers this spring, and 12 runs over his last two starts.

Pelfrey speaks knowingly of the need for him to pitch well, but spits the bit most every time out this spring. Neither John Maine nor Oliver Perez have pitched well, either, but Pelfrey has been combustible.

It would be very simple for Nelson Figueroa to start the season in the rotation with Bobby Parnell being added to the bullpen until Pelfrey works out his problems.

It is imperative for a lot of reasons that the Mets get off to a fast start, but right now I see Pelfrey putting the breaks on getting out of the gate.

Mar 28

March 28.10: Pelfrey a concern.

Of all the Mets, for me it is a toss up between Mike Pelfrey and John Maine as to whom I am most concerned about heading into the season. Oliver Perez? Not so much, as I know he’ll be inconsistent and spotty. I’m done scratching my head over Perez.

But Pelfrey and Maine – the former starts today – promise to have an upside and there have been flashes. Pelfrey’s problems have been, 1) a failure to master his secondary pitches, 2) an inability to limit the damage in an inning, and 3) a tendency to lose focus.

It all adds up to not knowing what to expect when he takes the mound.

But, at least he knows it when he speaks of the primary issue surrounding this team.

“I’ve come in from day one saying that the whole season is going to depend on us three,” Pelfrey said of himself, Maine and Perez. “And it’s true. No matter what team it is, pitching wins championships.
“Johan Santana is going to be Johan Santana. The guys vying for the fifth spot are going to be great fifth starters. The rest is on us three.”

It is only spring training, but their performance so far has done little to alleviate concern. The questions and inconsistency remains.

Mar 17

March 17.10: Pelfrey needs luck of the Irish.

Mike Pelfrey gets his third start of the spring this afternoon against Boston at Ft. Myers. Three starts in, and we should be seeing signs of progress from Pelfrey. So far, we haven’t. In his previous two starts, Pelfrey was hit with a big inning, which isn’t a good sign.

Pelfrey entered camp as the Mets’ No. 2 starter, and we need to see signs of that today. A big inning, and three runs counts in that regard, is an indication of not being able to put hitters away and limit the damage. That was indicative last year when he got into trouble and it is surfacing again.

There is no doubt, out of necessity, Pelfrey has been rushed by the Mets. But, what is done is done, and he’s had enough time where we should be seeing signs of development. It would be nice to see some of that today.

Mar 08

March 8.10: Maine goes today.

John Maine isn’t a project the way Mike Pelfrey and Oliver are, but he’s a question nonetheless. When healthy, the Mets have a reasonable idea what to expect from Maine, once considered a throw-in in the Kris Benson with Baltimore.

But, how healthy is Maine?

“It feels fine,’’ Maine said at the start of spring training when asked about his surgically repaired shoulder. “It feels like it did three, four years ago.’’

Three years ago appeared to be a breakout year for Maine, who made 32 starts and went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA. However, Maine complained of fatigue in his shoulder the following summer and eventually missed his last seven starts because of surgery to remove bone spurs in his shoulder.

Surgery was deemed successful, but by his own admission he rushed his comeback saying “maybe I was trying to make up for lost time.’’

Maine made only 15 starts last season and went 7-6 with a 4.43 ERA. Maine’s biggest problem last year was an inability to amp it up and pitch out of trouble. He came back at the end of the year to show he was recovering, then modified his off-season program by starting later and throwing less.

Today’s start against the Florida Marlins won’t be about getting people out as it will be another test for his shoulder and to see what he might have picked up working with Sandy Koufax earlier this spring.

Koufax had Maine using a longer stride when delivering his fastball and concentrating on working on the inner half of the plate.

When healthy the Mets have a good idea from what to expect from Maine, although the organization believes the potential ceiling is higher with Pelfrey and Perez.

“I think being able to go out there every five days,’’ Maine said when asked the key for a successful season from him. “When I do go out there I generally give the team a chance to win.’’

Here’s the line-up behind Maine:

Angel Pagan CF
Fernando Martinez RF
David Wright 3B
Jason Bay LF
Daniel Murphy 1B
Rod Barajas C
Russ Adams 2B
Ruben Tejada SS
John Maine RP